I met Tony Romo when he was a nobody.
It was mid-2000s, Quincy Carter had replaced Chad Hutchinson as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, and there I stood next to this no-name player.
A buddy and I spent the day at the Byron Nelson golf tournament and walked into a tent to get a free lesson when I noticed we were standing next to Terence Newman, a former cornerback for the Cowboys. I recognized him right away and was star-struck.
Holy crap! I’m standing next to a Dallas Cowboy!
Newman saw me staring and immediately struck up a conversation. I told him I was a huge fan. He asked if I knew the guy with him.
I looked at this tall man with wide sloping shoulders, a five o’clock shadow growing into six o’clock, and couldn’t put a face to a name.
“Go up to him and ask him if he’s Chad Hutchinson,” Newman said.
I knew it wasn’t Hutchinson after watching his struggles each week and cursing his name on more than a few occasions.
Newman kept pushing, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.
Finally, he got Romo’s attention and introduced us.
“This is Tony Romo,” Newman said. “Remember the name.”
Romo let out that big smile of his and gave a strong handshake.
Yeah, yeah, I thought. If he’s a Cowboy and I don’t know him, there’s no need.
Newman and Romo continued on to get their lesson and that’s the last I saw of the two. My buddy and I couldn’t believe we met the Terence Newman. Romo became a fleeting thought.
Imagine our surprise years later when Romo took the starting job from Drew Bledsoe and became the Cowboys starting quarterback for the next decade.
It wasn’t long after he became the quarterback that gave me hope each year, that finally this would be the year—only to see the team’s December ghosts haunt once again or watch the team make another early exit from the playoffs (still looking at your dropped pass Patrick Crayton).
But my god Romo was the quarterback for my team and I was going to stick by him until the very end.
That’s why it was so painful to watch his press conference Tuesday as he handed the team to rookie sensation Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick who started the season as a third-string quarterback before injuries to backup Kellen Moore and Romo vaulted him to the No. 1 spot.
“To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement,” Romo said Tuesday. “Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you’ve ever had was a soul-crushing moment for me.”
It felt as if it was going to be another soul-crushing season when Romo went down after a tackle in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks knocked him out. A 3-4 week injury turned to 10 weeks after an MRI, and suddenly myself and so many other Cowboys fans were left without a quarterback for the second straight season.
And based off the 4-12 atrocity that was the 2015 season, there was little reason to have any hope for 2016 with the Romo-less Cowboys.
Until Dak dove in and made us all believe that finally this could be our year.
With each passing week as Prescott led Dallas to an 8-1 record, it was easy to forget everything Romo had done for the past 10 years—all the late comebacks, all the heartbreaking interceptions, all the reasons to believe again.
There’s so much to remember about Romo’s legacy as the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback.
But there’s one thing I’ll never forget.
Standing next to him trying to put a name to a face of a no-name player.